Insurance cliff notes for college-bound students
BCAA advises parents and students to protect pricey school supplies against damage or theft
(Burnaby, B.C.): During the coming weeks, thousands of B.C. students will be heading off to university and college, loaded down with a treasure chest of electronics and other high-priced items. The British Columbia Automobile Association (BCAA) reminds parents to review their home insurance policy to ensure their student's belongings are adequately covered for theft, loss or damage. BCAA also provides tips to help students keep their belongings safe on and off campus.
In recent years, the most common stolen items reported to BCAA’s insurance claims department are: jewellery, digital cameras, iPods, cash, gift cards, video gaming equipment, and computer equipment such as laptops, desktops and iPads. According to a Statistics Canada report on crime, in 2011, theft of items valued up to $5,000 along with breaking and entering accounted for almost 60 per cent of police-reported property crime in Canada.
"Common items claimed as a result of theft are typically high in value and portable, making them ideal for thieves seeking easy cash sales," says Patricia Stirling, BCAA director of Insurance Underwriting. “Many of those high-priced items are what students typically take with them when they’re away at college or university.”
Other expensive items toted by today’s student include smartphones, TVs, stereos, scientific calculators, high-quality sporting goods, and bicycles.
Another concern for students living in dorms and other rental suites is the risk of residential mishaps such as a fire which can damage personal items. "Electronic or not, having to replace personal possessions all at once could put a financial strain on a student with a limited budget, or on parents paying for their child’s educational supplies and living expenses," says Stirling.
While most home insurance policies extend some coverage to students living away from home, BCAA cautions parents to speak to their insurance advisor to ensure their child qualifies for coverage under their existing policy. Students no longer regarded as a dependent should consider obtaining their own insurance.
So what should parents of college-bound students do? BCAA offers advice to help parents ensure their student—and his or her belongings—are well protected.
- Check with your insurance advisor to see if your child qualifies for coverage under your existing home insurance policy. Find out what is and isn’t covered and be aware of any limits on student property as well as limits on individual items. If the value of a belonging exceeds the limits, consider obtaining additional coverage.
- Check to see if your insurance provider offers additional coverage for specific items used by your child. For example, BCAA offers mobile device insurance which can cover both the physical device and any ‘downloads’ when the device has been damaged.
- Make a complete inventory of all the items your child will be taking with them, including clothing and furniture. Take photos or a video recording of their belongings.
- Obtain auto insurance for your child’s vehicle as home insurance policies do not apply to vehicles. If your child is using your car or taking it away to school with them, notify your auto insurance provider.
- Understand your liability coverage fully. Coverage for personal liability is also extended to your child through your homeowner’s policy if he or she is considered an "insured." Speak to your insurance advisor for details.
Even with insurance coverage, BCAA encourages students to take basic precautions to protect their belongings so they can avoid the cost and anxiety of having to replace them.
Protect yourself from theft on and off campus
- Keep your belongings with you. Whether you’re in the library, cafeteria or a study area—don’t leave your belongings unattended, even if you plan to return quickly. Thieves work fast and know you may be delayed, for example, running into friends unexpectedly or standing in a long lineup for coffee. Never leave valuables in your car.
- Be extra careful during exam time. Studying for long hours can be exhausting and you may be less attentive to your surroundings, making you an easy target for thieves. Taking a nap in public such as the library or study areas on campus also makes your personal items vulnerable to theft.
- Secure your bicycle and laptop. Invest in a high-quality U-shaped bicycle lock which is durable and difficult to break. Or, use secured bicycle storage facilities on campus if any are provided. If you live in a dorm or shared housing, use a laptop cable lock to secure your computer to an immovable object in your room.
- Always lock your doors. Even if you’re just going down the hall to visit dorm mates, lock your room. If you live off campus, make it a rule—especially amongst roommates—to keep entrance doors locked at all times. Don’t leave keys hidden outside under a flowerpot or window sill.
- Keep valuables out of sight. Reduce the risk of break-ins and keep high-priced items such as laptops or iPads away from clear view of windows. Keep fine jewellery and personal documents such as your birth certificate or insurance papers at home with your parents.
Prevent damage or loss from mishaps
- Protect your laptop from accidents. Invest in a sleeve that will help protect against spills and consider using a more padded or hard carrying case.
- Reduce risk of dorm or residential fire. Never leave an open flame or stove in use unattended. Before leaving home or going to sleep, always extinguish candles. Keep lit candles away from anything that could ignite such as curtains.
- Prevent water damage. Be careful what you allow down kitchen or bathroom drains and the toilet to avoid water backups. Report any signs of water leaks in the ceiling or pipes to dorm managers or landlords immediately.
Take extra precautions
- Backup your digital data—regularly. In case of loss, damage or theft, it’s important to create a backup of all your digital devices such as smartphones, iPods and other computer equipment. Losing phone numbers, music, photos—especially research papers and assignments—can be devastating to a student.
- Keep a record of your belongings. In case you have to replace your possessions, take photos or a video recording of your personal items, including clothing, household items, and furniture. Keep purchase receipts and store them in a safe place. Keep a copy of serial numbers and a description of your electronics.
- Be prepared for emergencies. Ensure your landlord or dorm manager provides you with emergency numbers in case of residential flooding, water leaks or fires. Know your dorm’s emergency drill or prepare one if you live off campus.
- Take immediate action. Contact campus security or law enforcement about a theft right away. If your wallet has been stolen, call your credit card companies immediately to cancel your cards. Call your dorm manager or landlord immediately about repairs to plumbing, major appliances or anything electrical in nature to reduce risk of water damage or fire.